Legislative Amendments to California Voter Enacted Law

This morning the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a statute passed by the state legislature (SB 1391) that prohibits 14- and 15-year-old criminal offenders from being prosecuted as adults.  In the case of in O.G. v. Superior Court (S259011), the issue was whether the California Legislature unconstitutionally amended the statutory provisions of Proposition 57 when it enacted SB 1391.  Prop. 57 was voted into law by a majority of California voters in 2016.  The ballot measure eliminated a District Attorney’s ability to directly file criminal charges against individuals under age 18 in adult court.  The measure instead gave juvenile court judges the sole authority to decide whether violent juveniles ages 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults only after conducting a full evidentiary hearing in the juvenile court.  In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1391 into law.  SB 1391 prohibits 14 and 15 year olds from being criminally prosecuted as adults regardless of the crime committed.  CJLF filed a brief (found here) arguing that SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Prop. 57.  Today the California Supreme Court held that SB 1391 “is fully consistent with and furthers” the intent and purpose of Prop. 57 and upheld the statutory amendment. O.G., a 15-year-old street gang member, was charged with murdering two people.  The Ventura County D.A.’s Office sought to prosecute O.G. as an adult and, pursuant to Prop. 57, filed a motion to transfer him from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to the superior court.  O.G. objected to the motion arguing that SB 1391 repealed the D.A.’s authority to make such a motion.  The trial court disagreed and expressly found that SB 1391 amounted to an unconstitutional amendment of Prop. 57.  O.G. appealed the trial court’s decision.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a brief supporting O.G.’s appeal.  Both O.G. and Attorney General Becerra argued that because Prop. 57 permits amendments by the legislature that are “consistent with and further the intent” of the measure, SB 1391’s elimination of 14- and 15-year-olds from being prosecuted as adults was consistent with and furthered the initiative’s goal of reducing the number of juveniles in adult court, reducing recidivism and focusing on rehabilitation.  The California Supreme Court agreed and held that “Senate Bill 1391 is fully consistent with and furthers Proposition 57’s purposes.”  The court further stated that “[b]oth Proposition 57 and Senate Bill 1391 sought to protect public safety by reducing juvenile recidivism and therefore, under a reasonable construction of Proposition 57, Senate Bill 1391 is consistent with and furthers the proposition’s public safety purpose.” The Ventura County D.A. argued that some 14- and 15-year-olds commit particularly horrific crimes and argued these individuals pose such a danger to the public that releasing them at age 25 under the juvenile system would not further Prop. 57’s intent to protect and enhance public safety.  The court disagreed finding that in cases involving “particularly heinous crimes. . . , other avenues are available to retain[] jurisdiction over juvenile offenders that pose a … Continue reading Legislative Amendments to California Voter Enacted Law